Under federal law, families receiving public assistance, known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), must cooperate with child support establishment and enforcement efforts.
In addition, TANF recipients must assign their rights to child support payments to the state. When a state collects child support on behalf of a TANF recipient, the state is permitted to keep the money to reimburse itself and the federal government for TANF assistance. States, however, have the option of allowing some of the child support payment to be passed through to the parent and child and disregarded when determining TANF assistance, meaning the amount would not be considered income for purposes of determining TANF eligibility.
Half of states have chosen various ways of passing through child support without reducing the family’s TANF assistance. Some states pass through up to $50. In others, the pass-through is $100-$200 based on the number of children. In 2014, states distributed more than $118 million dollars in child support payments to families receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
Washington is the most recent state to implement child support pass-through payments, passing Senate Bill 5144 in 2020. That legislation requires that the first $50 of child support received each month for a family with one child and the first $100 of child support received each month for a family with two or more children pass through to a family seeking public assistance. This bill becomes effective June 11, 2020.
Colorado is the first state to enact a full pass-through and disregard policy, meaning that 100% of the child support collected on behalf of TANF recipients is passed through to the family and disregarded for purposes of TANF eligibility. Since passage of that legislation in 2015, the Colorado Department of Human Services has been evaluating the program and recently released a one-page overview of the initial findings as well as a recorded presentation. Colorado House Bill 1100, sent to the governor on March 23, 2020, ensures child support payments are not passed through to temporary assistance for needy families (TANF) recipients if the general assembly does not appropriate an amount of money that is at least 90% of the total county share of collections passed through to the custodial party after the full federal share is paid.
Below is a chart of 52 states and territories and whether they have a pass-through and disregard policy, the amount of the pass-through and the statutory or code citation.